In 2007, Charles Stall was 56 years old, married and worked as an executive for a local appliance warehouse. He began to have persistent nausea, and went to see his PCP, who referred him to a local hospital where they performed some tests which showed that he had a few gallstones.
The PCP then referred Mr. Stall to Dr. Arthur Frank to perform a cholecystectomy, which is the medical term for gallbladder removal.
Dr. Frank saw Mr. Stall and scheduled him for surgery and chose to do surgery, using the laparoscopic method.
The laparoscopic method is the procedure where the surgeon uses surgical laparoscopic instruments to poke a hole in the abdomen and use these instruments to see and to operate without having to open the abdomen of the patient.
Dr. Frank, when he was operating, was supposed to identify all of the proper duct work and anatomy of the gallbladder before cutting anything. Unfortunately, Dr. Frank identified the gallbladder, but did not properly identify the common bile duct.
Also, Dr. Frank failed to order an intraoperative cholangiogram. A cholangiogram is a relatively quick and inexpensive procedure which a surgeon performing a gallbladder operation can use to help identify the proper ducts and structures inside the stomach. A cholangiogram inserts dye into the digestive system and an x-ray is taken to make sure that the doctor is prepared to cut in the right place. Unfortunately in this case, Dr. Frank did not use a cholangiogram.
Dr. Frank mistakenly thought that the gallbladder duct was the common bile duct, and he proceeded to clip and cut the common bile duct. Dr. Frank then cut the duct to remove the gallbladder.
However, postoperatively, Mr. Stall was in a lot of pain and was given Percocet for pain management. In the following days, Mr. Stall continued to have nausea and vomiting, and a week after the procedure, Dr. Frank called Mr. Stall back to the hospital where a CT scan revealed that there was a bile leak into the abdomen. The CT scan also showed that Dr. Frank had cut the wrong duct, causing major complications in Mr. Stall’s digestive system.
Mr. Stall had to undergo an ERCP, and then had to undergo another surgical procedure where a specialist performed a radical surgery called a Roux-en-Y, where he cut the bile duct in two and reattached the bile duct to the liver and reworked the digestive tract. However, this stretched the digestive tract, causing dilations and other digestive problems, to which Mr. Stall still has problems with today. A lawsuit was filed in Allegheny County against Dr. Frank for his failure to properly perform the surgery properly, for cutting the wrong duct, and failing to use a cholangiogram.
At Dr. Frank’s deposition, he admitted the mistake, and prior to trial, the case was settled for a substantial settlement.